ROCKINGHAM — Coming into the final week of the Southeastern Conference season sitting in third place, Richmond Senior had a small chance to finish in a tie atop the standings.
With home games with Pinecrest and Scotland looming on the schedule, Richmond coach Ricky Young believes his team could split with the Patriots and Fighting Scots and finish with the No. 2 seed in next week’s conference tournament.
But Richmond needed to beat Hoke County in the conclusion of a suspended game to put itself in that position.
It almost didn’t happen.
The Raiders scored six runs in the bottom of the sixth to rally for an 8-7 win over Hoke County Monday night at Raider Field. Richmond, which has now won eight straight, improves to 17-4 on the season and 6-2 in the SEC.
“This was a classic trap game,” Young said. “I told the team before the game that we couldn’t overlook them and think about the rest of the week. They’re kids and of course they did. I’m proud of the way the kids battled.”
Trailing 7-2 going into the bottom of the sixth, the Raiders took advantage of defensive miscues to score the game-winning runs. Ryan Mercer opened the frame with a walk and moved to second when Austin Brower’s infield pop-up was dropped by Hoke’s Logan Wilson. Nic Bullard followed by hitting a fly ball to left, which Eric Brather misplayed for a double, scoring Mercer. Brower scored on a wild pitch before Jame Buie bounced out to the pitcher for the first out.
Mikey Steele hit a grounder to third, but Alex Snodgrass’ throw pulled Wilson off the bag at first for an error to put runners on the corners. Steele stole second before Adam Sweatt hit a slow grounder to second to score Bullard. Jeremy Smith followed with a single to plate Steele and cut the deficit to 7-6. Drew Butler drew a base on balls after a Smith stole base. Bradley Brown ripped a single to right to score Smith and tie the game. On the play, Hoke’s Caleb Jacobs misplayed the ball for an error, allowing Butler to race around with the go-ahead run.
Brown, who was the third Richmond pitcher of the night, allowed a one-out single before shutting down the Bucks in the seventh to earn the victory.
“Once we took the lead, I was thinking about going with Nic or Ryan if something started to happen,” Young said. “Bradley came out in the seventh and settled down.”
The Raiders will return to action at 7 p.m. today against Pinecrest in the “Swinging for Pink” contest to benefit Jeremy Smith’s mother, Caryla.
“This really means a lot to us and it’s a big deal for us,” Jeremy Smith said. “She’s really happy they’re doing this for her.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com